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Brian Samuel Epstein (19 September 1934 – 27 August 1967) was an English music entrepreneur who managed the Beatles. Epstein first discovered the Beatles in November 1961 during a lunchtime performance at The Cavern Club. He was instantly impressed and saw great potential in the group. Epstein was rejected by nearly all major recording companies in London, until he secured a meeting with George Martin, head of EMI's Parlophone label. In May 1962, Martin agreed to sign the Beatles, partly because of Epstein's conviction that the group would become internationally famous.
The Beatles' early success has been attributed to Epstein's management style, and the band trusted him without hesitation. In addition to handling the Beatles' business affairs, Epstein often stepped in to mediate personal disputes within the group. The Beatles' unquestioning loyalty to Epstein later proved detrimental, as the band rarely read contracts before signing them. Shortly after the song "Please Please Me" rose to the top of the charts in 1963, Epstein advised the creation of Northern Songs, a publishing company that would control the copyrights of all Lennon–McCartney compositions recorded between 1963 and 1973. Music publisher Dick James and his partner Charles Silver owned 51% of the company, Lennon and McCartney each owned 20%, and Epstein owned 9%. By 1969, Lennon and McCartney had lost control of all publishing rights to ATV Music Publishing. Epstein's death in 1967 marked the beginning of the group's dissolution and had a profound effect on each Beatle. In 1997, Paul McCartney said, "If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian."
Epstein's homosexuality was not publicly known until some years after his death, although it had been an open secret among his friends and business associates.
While Epstein was in the Army, he commissioned a tailor to make an officer's uniform for him that he wore when cruising the bars of London, but was arrested one night at the Army and Navy Club in Piccadilly by the military police for impersonating an officer. Epstein managed to avoid a court martial by agreeing to see an army psychiatrist, who learned of Epstein's sexuality. After 10 months he was discharged from the army on medical grounds for being "emotionally and mentally unfit". Epstein later stated that his first homosexual experience was when he returned to Liverpool after being discharged.
Epstein spent a year studying acting at RADA, but dropped out shortly after his arrest for "persistent importuning" outside a men's public toilet in Swiss Cottage, London; cottaging, as it was called, was one of the few public places gay and bisexual men could meet at the time, especially if they were closeted. When Epstein first saw the Beatles perform he noticed their stage attire first, saying, "They were rather scruffily dressed, in the nicest possible way, or I should say in the most attractive way—black leather jackets, jeans, long hair of course." McCartney said that when Epstein started to manage the Beatles they knew that he was homosexual but did not care, because he encouraged them professionally and offered them access to previously off-limits social circles.
Although Lennon often made sarcastic comments about Epstein's homosexuality to friends and to Epstein personally, no one outside the group's inner circle was allowed to comment. Ian Sharp, one of Lennon's art school friends, once made a sarcastic remark about Epstein, saying, "Which one of you [Beatles] does he fancy?" Sharp was sent a letter by Epstein's office within 48 hours that demanded a complete apology. Sharp apologised, but was then completely ostracised. McCartney sent him a letter directing him to have no contact with any of them in the future. Epstein went on holiday to places such as Amsterdam, Torremolinos and Barcelona or Manchester at weekends, as the attitude to homosexuals there was more tolerant than Liverpool, even though Liverpool did have several gay bars.
In his autobiography, Best stated that Epstein drove them both to Blackpool one evening where Epstein expressed his "very fond admiration." Epstein then supposedly said, "Would you find it embarrassing if I ask you to stay in a hotel overnight?" Best replied that he was not interested, and the two never mentioned the incident again. There were reports of a brief sexual encounter between Lennon and Epstein during a four-day holiday in Barcelona, in April 1963. Lennon always denied the rumours, telling Playboy in 1980: "Well, it was almost a love affair, but not quite. It was never consummated ... but we did have a pretty intense relationship." Lennon's first wife Cynthia also maintains that Lennon's relationship with Epstein was platonic. A fictionalised account of the Spanish holiday is featured in the 1991 film The Hours and Times.
Epstein's autobiography, A Cellarful of Noise, was published in the UK in October 1964, and later in the United States. It was ghost-written by journalist Derek Taylor, who served as Epstein's assistant that year, and then as the publicist for NEMS from 1968 to 1970. Lennon reportedly once quipped that the memoir should have been titled A Cellarful of Boys; he also once said it should be called Queer Jew. Lennon delighted in mocking Epstein's sexuality; a popular rumor holds that during the recording of "Baby, You're a Rich Man", he sang altered choruses of "Baby, you're a rich fag Jew".
Male homosexual activity was illegal in England and Wales until September 1967, when it was decriminalised; however, this was one month after Epstein's death.
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